USA Funds Grant Backs Exploration of Quality Assurance for Alternative Education Providers

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Excelsior College has secured a one-year, $150,000 USA Funds planning grant to explore the creation and viability of a quality assurance entity (QAE) for alternative education providers. The Presidents’ Forum and the Distance Education Accreditation Commission (DEAC) will lead the project.

Excelsior College
National standards would facilitate the acceptance of evaluated alternative approaches to learning across institutions, decreasing costs and time to completion for students...

Excelsior College has secured a one-year, $150,000 USA Funds planning grant to explore the creation and viability of a quality assurance entity (QAE) for alternative education providers. The Presidents’ Forum and the Distance Education Accreditation Commission (DEAC) will lead the project, which will include a number of national higher education groups dedicated to online learning, assessment, accreditation, and quality assurance.

During the grant, the group will explore many of the issues related to assessing quality in the emergent sector of innovative providers. In exploring the feasibility and sustainability of an “umbrella” organization, the group will consider how such an organization might approach various aspects of quality assurance and work toward facilitating national recognition of innovative education providers.

Proposed activities may include:
1. Sharing information about and supporting existing quality assessment programs; cross walking current requirements and best practices;
2. Furthering the discussion around the need for national standards by which to gauge quality in non-institutional learning and in the quality review process;
3. Creating and maintaining a national registry of quality assurance organizations and innovative providers.

The group’s creation is, in some ways, a response to the changing economic landscape which has led the Obama Administration to make degree completion a national priority. The pursuit of in-demand skills has created ripe opportunity for providers of innovative, low-cost educational products and services to move into a market typically dominated by traditional institutions of higher education. While many institutions are recognizing these extra-institutional providers and, in some cases, granting academic credit for such nontraditional learning experiences, the lack of shared expectations for educational quality has caused issues for both institutions and accreditors and prevented Title IV access for students.

"The Presidents' Forum is a collection of institutions that are adult serving and non-traditional,” said Ed Klonoski, president of Charter Oak State College and chair of the Presidents’ Forum. “We have been at the forefront of inventing lower cost approaches to achieving a quality higher education. We welcome the conversation about national standards for alternate providers of academic content and new sources of collegiate learning."

“Evaluating non-traditional learning opportunities is a resource laden endeavor, and few institutions are equipped with the infrastructure and expertise to take on the challenge,” said Tina Goodyear, executive director of the Center for the Assessment of Post-Traditional Instruction, Training, and Learning (CAPITAL) at Excelsior College and COO of the Presidents’ Forum. “National standards would facilitate the acceptance of evaluated alternative approaches to learning across institutions, decreasing costs and time to completion for students.”

The grant period will culminate in December 2016 with the publishing of a white paper, offering a model of an entity that will strengthen collaboration and advocacy in the recognition of alternative forms of earning credit and detailed next steps for implementation.

About Excelsior College
Excelsior College (excelsior.edu) is a regionally accredited, nonprofit distance learning institution that focuses on removing obstacles to the educational goals of adult learners. Founded in 1971 and located in Albany, NY, Excelsior is a proven leader in the assessment and validation of student knowledge. It offers more efficient and affordable access to degree completion through multiple avenues: its own online courses and college-level proficiency examinations, and the acceptance in transfer of credit from other colleges and universities as well as recognized corporate and military training programs. Excelsior College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and designated as a Center for Academic Excellence by the National Security Agency and the US Department of Homeland Security.

The Presidents’ Forum
The Presidents’ Forum (presidentsforum.org), established in 2004, is a collaboration of accredited, national, adult-serving institutions and programs which have embraced the power and potential of online education. The Mission of the Presidents’ Forum is to advance the recognition of innovative practice and excellence in online learning. This is accomplished by providing a venue for leaders in higher education and stakeholders to share their knowledge and learn from others’ best practices.

Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC)
The Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) (deac.org) is a private, non-profit organization founded in 1926 that operates as an institutional accreditor for distance education. Recognized by both the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the U.S. Department of Education, accreditation by DEAC covers all distance education activities within an institution.

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Mike Lesczinski, Chief Communications Officer
@ExcelsiorLife
since: 10/2012
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